By Sarah B Lange under Uncategorized on November 6, 2023

Leveraging the Power of Audio-Visual to Boost Your Fundraising!

You can watch the full episode on YouTube or listen to Spotify.

Hey everyone, I'm Sarah Lange and I'm here to spark the philanthropy revolution. The word philanthropy means love of mankind. My show is all about the ways we can open our doors and hearts so we can do more good.

Sarah: Hey everybody, I’m Sarah Lange, for those of you who are joining us for the first time, welcome, welcome. I'm a professional fundraiser. I've raised over 90 million and worked with over 200 nonprofits in the US and I am passionate about helping you raise more money so you can do more good. And today I have an awesome guest on board with me, Joey Goone. Do you want to introduce yourself and tell people what you do? 

Joey: Hey, Bestie, what's going on? It's so good to be here. Yes, my name is Joey Goone. I am with a company called Utopia Experience. We help organizations produce more impactful events and tell better stories so that their audiences are more connected.

Sarah: Cool. And rumor has it you've raised 30 million dollars. Do you want to tell everybody about that?

Joey: Sure. Yes. So this is really just since the onset of the pandemic. Our organization has worked with over 300 nonprofits since then. And it happened that first week. I think it was like March 20th of 2020. We had, shout out to my Bestie, now Karen Dickerson at Quest Academy in Illinois. We've helped them pivot. Their largest annual event was supposed to happen the weekend that the world was shut down. And they called us frantic and said, “we need a new plan.” And so we converted our studio, which was at the time a 2000 square foot office with seven of us. We converted the space into a virtual production studio. And after that, we kind of scratched our chins and said, “we stumbled into something here. Let's take this to all these other groups who really need the fundraising money to continue their, you know, to continue delivering the programs that they're delivering to their recipients and paying their staff and whatnot.” And so we did that. And just in that first year alone, we we worked with about 100 nonprofits, you know, and we just continued to grow and evolve from there. And, you know, 2020, that wasn't the first year that we started working with nonprofit groups, but it was the first time that we started to get super intentional about audiences, what motivates them to log in, because we want to, you know, we're in this virtual environment. We're not in a big ballroom. We had to figure out ways to compel people and invite them into the setting and encourage them and make these events different than just your typical Zoom meeting with, you know, your team or your boss or whatever. And so that kind of inspired, that curiosity inspired this windfall that has since translated back into the ballroom, which is where we are now.

Sarah: Awesome. That's incredible. And kudos to you for being able to pivot. I remember I was in Los Angeles when the world shut down and I was in this big three day event and we were putting in like 12 hour a days. And then, of course, we're like having, you know, these little gatherings afterwards and then we're going straight to bed. Right. So we didn't actually know what was going on to the extent that it was going on. And then I landed back in Massachusetts and I'm driving into Worcester and I was like, “did the alien abduction happen?” I mean, like it was no cars on the streets. It was so bizarre. It was like the tumbleweeds were going by. And I was just like, “what? What happened?” It was so shocking.

Joey: And you're in an episode of Walking Dead.

Sarah: Yes, exactly. Only without the zombies, thank God. Right. But yeah, there's no head eating involved. But yeah, I mean, I just think in that moment in time, everyone was like, “what the heck?” And I think it was kind of this moment of paralysis. So the fact that you guys could pivot and be creative and innovative and get that event like switched like that, because there's so much that goes into an event, as you know. So how do you motivate people to log in? Because I know there's still a bunch of organizations that either because they have a really wide footprint or because they're trying to just include a lot of folks do these hybrid events where it's live, but perhaps there's some kind of online component. So how do you get people motivated to log in and stick around for these events? You know, because we all know that Zoom can get a little tedious sometimes. Right. So so tell us your approach to that.

Joey: So we did a bunch of different things. First off, it's I think it comes down to Sarah, the work that you do. It's having great relationships with stakeholders, partners, best making making your network, your best friends, and not for your own motivations and what you can get out of the relationship, but what you can give to them and how you can give back to them. You know, so really turning, I think a lot of our nonprofit organizations at the time, they just got super curious and started to go to their donors and their attendees. And they ask questions like, how, you know, “what motivates you to get involved with us?” And it's a time where we're feeling isolated. “How can we make you feel like a part of a bigger tribe?” Like you matter. “What do you want right now?”, What what are you finding that you're needing in this time of isolation?” And we used those answers to try and deliver and listen to the things that people were telling us. And one of the things is that they wanted to feel more connected to a community and they wanted to feel more connected to the mission of the nonprofit. So we actually, during a time when we couldn't bring people into studios, it was interesting what we were able to do and to create by leveraging technology. We told we shared invitation videos where we would gather the recipients on Zoom and have them look into the camera and say, “you changed my life, Mr. and Mrs. Donor, I want you to know how much you impacted me and we're having this virtual event or this hybrid event or this live event and we'd love to invite you to come and participate with us.” So that's just one way of storytelling where we actually went, you know, sometimes we were so far removed from, you know, how our money and our contributions are making an impact. And so we wanted to bring that into. And I don't mean during the events. I think many of our organizations do a great job of storytelling during their actual events. But what about before the event? What about after the event? So it just became this full, all encompassing picture of how do we connect people not just during, but before and after as well. So that was just one way invitation videos, which was super cool.

Sarah: I love that idea. I, I will admit that I am not the greatest at using video in my own company, but I'm really good about telling my clients to do it. So I guess this is where I have to like start walking my walk. But I just get so caught up in other things. And it's like there's so many stories I could tell that, you know, I I need to do a better job of that. And my my business mentors made me commit to having a much more high level video or social media presence in 2024. And he's he's saying, “I want to start you want to start that now, not just next year.” But, yeah, I am consistently telling people that they got to get the stories out because one of the things that I love, love, love about working with the nonprofit sector is they're doing magic and making transformation happen every day. Right. It's like they're doing amazing work. And I feel so honored and privileged to work in partnership with these folks who are doing like the hard work in our back in the day, people used to call it God's work. Right. But it really is. They're doing the heavy lifting in society. And I really believe that nonprofits give us a quality of life that we wouldn't otherwise have. So like if you think about life in the United States without any nonprofits, it would suck. There would be no arts, no hospitals, no universities, you know, none of the things that people turn to on a day to day basis. You know, hospitals, you know, those kinds of things. And then there's all the other nonprofits like youth service organizations and mental health organizations. And so I love this idea of storytelling, and the imitation video is just genius. So how did you get into this work?

Joey: Gosh, this takes me back so many years. Well, so my mom started Utopia as a school teacher and she was working 50 percent in both business and 100 percent in neither. I just remember the company was started in 2001. I was just a little tyke at the time. And so I actually got to watch the company sort of grow from the sidelines. And I just remember as a young kid, but we started out as an entertainment company and where we did interactive entertainment, audiovisual components, DJs and dancers and emcees. So it was much more like, to your point a moment ago, the arts. It was like a theater performance at your event. And it was these DJs that were super interactive and spinning on vinyl and emcees that we had one of the top people on ‘So You Think You Could Dance’ went like during the first season. And we that one of those individuals in like the top 10 was an employee of Utopia. And so we brought that level and dynamic energy to our event experiences. And I just got to watch and witness it from the sidelines. And I remember we did this wish event and I was watching these kids just, sort of, they forgot for a moment that they were sick. Their parents forgot for a moment that they were sick because kids, they don't really understand what's going on. They just want to have a good time. And they know that they're spending 90 percent of their time in the hospital, which isn't fun.

Sarah: Zero fun.

Joey: Zero fun. And no child, I mean, we can have this is a conversation for a different day, but no child should ever have to go through something as debilitating as that. And we got to come in and for an hour, two hours, those kids and their families, we just enveloped them in love and energy and enthusiasm and joy. And I just thought this is what the more of what the world needs right now. And I watched, you know, for the next 10 years or so, the company just grow and evolve into production and audiovisual services and storytelling, which was really when I got involved 10 years ago after my mom passed. You know, we lost her to cancer in 2013.

Sarah: I'm sorry.

Joey: Thank you, Sarah. Yeah, it's. But I get to ride high on the shoulders of her legacy every day. And when I got involved, we were still very involved in the private sector. And I thought back to that moment of what what this company did for a nonprofit and how that made me feel doing charity work. And I'm like, “we need to do more of that. We really want to be a part of the change. We want to be change agents and moment makers.” And so that's what inspired us to get more involved in philanthropy.

Sarah: That's amazing. What a story. I'm sorry you lost your mom. I lost my mom when I was 31, so I was pretty young when I lost her, too. So I I can relate to what it's like to lose your mom when you're still pretty young. So I'm sorry that you had that experience.

Joey: Well, it's like one of those moments too where you think all of these thoughts flood into your head about, you know, I was young. I was twenty one, twenty two. I'm just graduating college at the time. And all of those things that were, you know, emotions and feelings left untold and unsaid were things that I just wanted to say to her. And so I'd encourage you if you're having a moment right now where you should just, you know, if you're feeling a certain way about someone like call that family member and tell them that you love them, pick up the phone and and make amends with that friend that, you know, upset you over something insignificant. And I mean, we're all here today and then we're gone. And so all of the things that I wish I could have said I didn't say, but I did write a letter and I spoke it out loud and I hope she received it. 

Sarah: She did. Oh, I mean, in some ways I was lucky in that my mom was given a diagnosis and it was a terminal diagnosis, and so we knew we were on borrowed time. So she was given six to twelve months to live. And I made a decision to use that time as well as I could. So, you know, she was living in Philly. I'm up here in Mass. It's like a five hour trip. But I took my son, who was like a toddler at that time. You know how well toddlers travel. So because I think your daughter's like a toddler at this point right? 

Joey: Yes. Yeah.

Sarah: So, yeah, they want to be up on their feet and around, not locked in a car seat driving for five hours. So I would just go down there as much as possible. And I did say all the things that I needed to say. And but in that way, I feel like I was lucky because we knew there was a hard stop. Like we knew that the clock was running down. And and then that that changed the way I related to my dad. My parents were divorced by the time my mom died. But yeah, I just I feel the same way you do. Like you got to tell people you love them. You got to put in the time. You got to make amends because you only get one chance. And and we never know. We only have today or we only have this moment. Right. So anything could happen to anybody at any time. And I don't mean to be a pessimist, but, you know, I echo everything that you just said about really taking advantage of the time that you have to to make right with family members and make sure that our friends, colleagues, whoever, because at the end of the day, there's very little that's worth staying mad over. Right. So…

Joey: Yeah, impermanence teaches us too, Sarah, like you don't have to apologize for being a pessimist. It is what it is. It's not like it's not optimistic. It just it is what it is in the very sense of the word. It just is. So I believe that impermanence and realizing that the seasons change, life change, life comes and goes, there's the first breath and the breath and the last breath, like knowing that there's a there's an indefinite end makes you appreciate those little moments so much more.

Sarah: It does. And this brings me back to the moments that you capture. So so tell me about kind of your approach to capturing those moments. Like there's the stories, right, or the invitation videos. What are some other moments that you like to capture when you're working on a project? Like what are some of the things you look for?

Joey: Yeah. Oh, my gosh, so much. So first of all, when we when we are planning or producing an event and we're helping an organization tell stories at that event, bringing in audiovisual components into the event, we kind of nerd out on neuroscience and just inspired by Huberman's work and Dr. Danny Friedland's work who are neuroscientists. We leaned into this and got super curious because it matters. And so when you understand sort of the brain chemistry and how the brain works, you can really try to be intentional about it and maximize the impact that your community has together, because I think very thoughtful and intentional event organizers, they do a great job of connecting people to the mission, but oftentimes miss the opportunity to connect people with each other, which is ultimately the reason why people come back. And so, yes, we do want to tell those great stories. But what if we could bring the recipients into the room? You know, what if they could shake hands very quickly and and high five all the donors? What if what we recently did at an event is the recipients are 5000 miles away? You know, that is literally on the other side of the earth. I have absolutely no idea how far it actually is. I just pulled an arbitrary number out of my head, and I'm hoping that the earth in and of itself is less than that all the way around. 

Sarah: We'll just we'll just say it is for now.

Joey: But they're in Atlanta. Their recipients are thousands of miles away in Asia. And and so we had iPads on the tables and allowed the donors in the room to actually connect in real time to the recipients that were across the world.

Sarah: That's amazing. And that to me, like that changes everything, right, because philanthropy is a heart centered activity and donors are giving to the cause because they're trying to help the people that the nonprofit is servicing. So, like, you know, if if my big issue is homelessness, I can't really do much about it. Or if I want to, you know, make sure that animals have a safe place. Well, I have a dog who's not going to let another dog get anywhere near her. Right. So it's not like I could even turn my house into an animal shelter, even if I wanted to do that. So, you know, when we're looking to donate to a cause, it's something that resonates with our heart. And so we're not really giving to the organization. We're giving to the organization as the expert who's helping address the problem that we care about with people we care about. Right. So when you allow that direct heart connection, that's everything. And I can only imagine, like what the donors faces are like. 

Joey: We should nerd out on the neuroscience for a moment.

Sarah: Yeah, please do.

Joey: So this is based on the triune model of the brain. And I think this is important because it underscores or there's a through line here in the entire conversation and what we do as an event production company, that we're not just bringing transactional audiovisual components into a room. We're trying to make it immersive, experiential and transformational by understanding why people gather and what people need based on what they've told us that they need. And really, fundamentally, what the brain needs when you walk into an environment with a thousand strangers or five hundred strangers. So neuroscience things here, indulge me for a moment, lean in, friends, let's get comfy and unpack this very briefly. And this is based on the 1970s triune model approach of the brain. And it's just one of many different ways to sort of make sense on how the brain is divided into different systems and areas and complex thinking patterns. So in the front here, you've got what we call the prefrontal cortex and also the outermost layer of the brain is the neocortex. And when that part of the brain is online, we feel all the feelings that Sarah, you just described. We're in a tribe, we're in community, we're feeling like connected. It's ‘kumbaya’, we get chills, we laugh, we cry. And we do the things that when, like at the end, the dopamine hits us and we're like, I just accomplished something. Yes, because we're in a flow state. That's when that part of the brain is online. The middle part of the brain is the social emotional brain that you can argue like feelings of connection, empathy and belonging live in here. Now, these two parts of the brain can be online simultaneously, but they cannot be online when the amygdala is firing and the amygdala or the lizard brain, the reptilian brain, the monkey brain. It has 100 names, whatever you want to call it, is the largest part of our brain and has gotten smaller and smaller over time as we've evolved as a species. But this part of the brain is alive and well, my friends. And this is the part of the brain that is concerned with when you walk into a group of 500 strangers. “Am I safe?”, “Do I belong?”, “Who are these people?”, “Can I fit in if I'm just myself?” And if we as event organizers don't understand that, then our communities will never fully come online. Their heads and their hearts, they're going to be in their head, not in their heart. And that's going to result in a community that's feeling disconnected. That's going to result in a community that sort of is the, you know, it becomes a part of the statistic, the 60 percent of donors that give and then don't give again because they feel more connected in a different community. So don't be a part of that statistic. You've got to understand this stuff and why people come and what they need psychologically. And your event production company should be helping you understand this so you can enable and create the conditions where people feel seen and heard and psychologically safe. Then and only then “can we go into the program?”, “Can we go into the storytelling?” Otherwise, those things, they're just happening. But people aren't actually listening to them, connecting with them.

Sarah: I love that you just nerded out on neuroscience because I've actually studied neurolinguistic programming.

Joey: Yes. NLP. I love it.

Sarah: Yeah, NLP, right?. And I'm fascinated with the way the brain works. And the reason I'm fascinated is for the same reasons. How do we unlock donors? How do we understand how their mind works? And like helping them understand, like we do get a dopamine hit when we're doing something like giving, whether it's money or candy on Halloween, that's a dopamine hit because the kids are so happy.

Joey: Maybe a not so good dopamine hit.

Sarah: Yeah.

Joey: In moderation.

Sarah: In moderation, yes. No, but like I actually love seeing all the little kids come up on my porch and all the costumes and they're so stinking cute.

Joey: Oh my gosh, yes. Oh, I was talking, I was referencing ‘eating the candy’ itself.

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Joey: Because in the moment you get the dopamine from the sugar, but the next day you're like, “oh, what did I do?”

Sarah: Right. Halloween hangover. “Oh, too much sugar.” Yeah, I feel bad for parents who have to like manage their kids candy the night of, the day after. Yeah, but like people don't understand how important it is to really land your donors, like ground them in the space, get them committed to what you're like, getting them present in the room and engaged with what you're doing. And I think there's so many times that we just assume people are going to show up at our events and have a good time, but they may or may not, you know, and they may feel good about their donation in the moment, but if we don't loop back around to make them sort of do the affirmation of purchase process, right, they may or may not come back. And so I love that you are basing your work in neuroscience because it works. It's really important to consider that because we're all humans and, you know, you want people operating out of their best self, not in flight or fight or in the, you know, the lizard part of their brain. You want them in their hearts, you want them in the room. So, yeah, I love that. So I do want to say hi to Mike. Do you remember Mike from Cause Camp? Mike Esposito, he's here. So I just want to do a little shout out.

Joey: Awesome. Hey, Mike, good to see you.

SarahL: Yeah. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us today. So how would a nonprofit start with kind of using audio visual? What are some of the things that you would suggest if a nonprofit, I know sometimes people are like, “oh, we have to hire a videographer.” And I'm like, “no, you just need to use your phone.” So like if you're a nonprofit, how would you get started on using audio visual to boost your fundraising? What are some of the approaches and techniques you would use?

Joey: Sure. So first of all, think about the arrival experience, because when people walk into the space, that's the opportunity to sort of lower the defense barriers and mechanisms in the brain that are feeling that fight or flight response. And so one of the things that we recently did is we created an art museum like Van Gogh inspired tour in the venue. And we had exhibits, four different display walls that had 90 second videos at each of those displays. And we took donors or attendees in intimate groups of 20 to 25. So we broke them away from the 500 person group where they felt kind of a little uneasy and we put them in smaller groups because as tribes, that is how we function. That's how the brain works. And we introduced them in to four different stories that were pre-recorded before the event, not filmed on iPhones, filmed by our media team with intention on how to tell those particular stories and to pull and elicit those emotional responses, the good and the bad. And we we took the donors through a guided tour. Right. So four different videos on how these particular families lives were being enhanced by the nonprofit services. And so as the donors are walking through this guided tour, which took about 20 minutes per group, they have this passionate volunteer that's connecting with them, that's high fiving them, that's asking them why they came. That's like, “who's been here the longest?”, “Are you coming back for a sec?” Right. Just making small talk, making everyone feel connected and safe and seen and heard. And then the donors, they're getting these these experiences where they're getting to actually hear from the recipients of the mission. And it's like, “hey, Mr. and Mrs. Donor, you matter.” And so they're high fiving each other. They're hugging each other. I heard a couple, two groups of two or two couples, four people making dinner plans are like, “we didn't know you guys, but we love you guys.” They're crying. They're laughing. We created that bonding experience by offering this immersive welcome. And then and only then did we introduce them. They had drinks during this. We introduced them afterwards to the cocktail hour and then we brought them into the main ballroom for the program. But connecting them in those intimate groups allowed them to create community, to connect not just with the mission, but also with each other before we brought them into a formal program. That's one of many ways to leverage technology and audiovisual to to make it more immersive and experiential.

Joey: Yeah, I love that. And I also don't mean to downplay like how amazing it is when you can hire a team like you. I also think for some nonprofits like you got to start somewhere with something. Right. So, you know, that's I trust me as the mother of an audio engineer, I get the need to like hire people and do things right. And I also think when you're just getting started, sometimes you got to do what you can with what you've got. Right.

Joey: I don't downplay the iPhone video. I think you've got to start by starting. And I can't tell you how many times I've sat in front of this computer before I had a camera in front of me and just use my iPhone to try and make connections online and build relationships where I'm just doing a selfie video, trying to connect with someone, a prospective client, someone I want to build a strategic partnership with. And I'm like, “hey, I'm Joey. I'd love to meet you and learn more about you.” and send that video off. And so if all you have right now are the resources to to utilize the iPhone that's in your pocket, absolutely. One hundred percent do it. 

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah. I think for me it's like just do what you can with what you have, where you are. Right. To me, it's like progress versus perfection. So I really love the way that you're thinking about this, about bringing people in and that their arrival experience. Like it starts at the door. You know, so how do you make people feel that connection. I love the thing about the high fives and the hugging and the dinner plans like that to me just shows how just using audio visual is building community, you know, in ways that you can't ever anticipate. I'm sure it was not, you know, one of the goals of the event is “we want our donors to connect to the extent that they make dinner plans with each other.” Right. But these are like the beautiful byproducts of the experience you're creating. 

Joey: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's just one of… Sarah, you asked how to how to leverage it? I mean, I would love I can just rattle off 15 different ways if that will be helpful. Maybe it's not. You want to go in a different direction.

Sarah: Yes. Please do.

Joey: You can do it wherever you want to go. I would just I want to make this as valuable for for you and for the people listening as possible. And these are things where some of them may resonate with you. Maybe it's that one idea you stick into your utility belt and you're like, “yes, I'm doing this.”

Sarah: Yeah. So I think it would be fantastic if you could share some of the other ideas you have about how to use audio visual, because more and more people are drawn to audio visual versus emails. Or even if you send an email and there's a video embedded in it, people are more likely to stick around and watch that rather than read content. So this I feel like audio visual is the way to go, at least for part of your content. So I think if we could share some ideas with folks about how to do that, that'd be fantastic.

Joey: For sure. So, you know, going back to the exceptional arrival experience, we like to repurpose the red carpet. We had an Oscar event. It was a gala with an Oscar theme. And as people enter the event, they registered and they were greeted by recipients on the red carpet. We did another one where it was teachers, their kids' favorite teachers. It was for a private school. So be creative, have really charismatic, fun MCs interviewing people with a microphone and a camera and a cool light. And maybe they can snap a photo and they're asked a couple of questions as they come into the event. And with these events, you know, they were asking questions that were very pointed. You know, they we didn't it wasn't just about giving them an exceptional arrival experience, but we also wanted to find out information that we could package and give back to the organization. It's like “this is what your donors want from you. This is what they're telling you.” And it gave them a plan that following week after they watched all of that red carpet live stream footage to say, “these are the 15 donors that we need to take out for coffee and spend more time with because they told us X, Y and Z during that red carpet stream.” Maybe we ask them, “what motivates you to give?”, “What do you want to see from the nonprofit?”, “How many times have you attended?”, “What made you come back?”, “Why are you here tonight?” Those questions is capturing. We're capturing pertinent information on some of your most important relationships, and we're leveraging audiovisual components to do that. That's one. We have an event coming up where we're doing a nonprofit charity event for a media company, a broadcasting company. And they want to, you know, everybody is sort of thinking about the different senses. You're listening to the radio via your auditory, your ears, your auditory sense. And so we're bringing Bluetooth silent disco headphones or Bluetooth headphones into the room and delivering a very small segment of the program via headphones that you can only hear if you put the headphones on. Now, for those people who are impaired and hearing impaired, we're going to make sure that we're going to have captions on our LED walls and projectors in the room as well. So it's how do we stimulate the senses? How do we connect people? How are we leveraging technology to make it immersive and fun? We talked a little bit earlier about iPads at the tables to connect donors to recipients that are across the world. Yeah, so those are a few.

Sarah: I love those ideas. And what I'm always telling my clients and anybody else who will listen to get out and survey your donors. Right. So I recently sent a sample donor survey to everyone who's on our email list. If you guys want that, drop me an email at [email protected]. Happy to send that out. But I love the idea that you just talked about. You're actually doing a live donor survey. Right. And they're getting the information, you know, almost in real time. Like, obviously, they're, excuse me, watching it the next day. But it's like their donor information is right there. They're getting the information they need. And the thing is, like, a lot of times people will tell you things in person that they'll never tell you on paper.

Joey: So true.

Sarah: You know, and so I love this idea of doing the live donor survey on the red carpet, because that is gold. Like so much gold. It's like a huge pile of gold. And it just directs your fundraising efforts for, you know, after the event, understanding who these people are, you know, the role they want to play, their level of interest, their desires. And yeah, that's phenomenal.

Joey: Sarah, when I spoke at CauseCamp, which is where we met and we met our fellow friend who's here live, Mike. In my session, I talked about in-event surveys. So you bring up surveys. Like, what's a typical response rate on a post-event survey? Like 15 percent, maybe, if you're lucky?

Sarah: Oh, if you're lucky. I mean, overall, surveys tend to get like a 3 percent response rate. So if you hit people like right after the event, maybe you'll get that much. But it's very low.

Joey: So what if, to your point, we're doing in-event surveys? And perhaps we're not just surveying people on the red carpet, but there's different touch points throughout the night to collect information. Because maybe someone doesn't feel comfortable going to the red carpet and being on the spot. But later on in the night, what if a QR code pops up on one of our LED walls or our projector screens and we ask them a two-question survey and we make it, again, fun. We put some music on in the room. We're like, “hey, we're going to play a survey and we're going to be super mindful of your time because this is really important stuff.” I actually did this during my presentation at CauseCamp and then we put it in action the following week at a gala. And what we saw, what unfolded was exceptional. So the first question was multiple choice and it was, “how long have you been a donor?” You know, less than a year or first time event, more than three years, more than five years, more than 10 years. And so 60 percent of the room were first timers. So we asked the 10-year donors to stand up, the ones who had been around for five years or more. We acknowledged them. We applauded them. We gave them recognition. We told them how awesome they were. Then we asked them to sit down. We asked the first timers to stand. Then we connected. We had a connection activity where the 10-year donors went up to the first-time donors and hugged them and welcomed them and high-fived them, put their arms around them. And we said, “hey, we want these first timers to be you in 10 years from now. Go and love on them in the way that you have been loved on by this organization so that they come back.” And it's the room erupted in charisma and energy. I stood on a table. He's like, “woo, all my first time.” It was amazing. And then the second question was, “what's your preferred method of communication?” Because how frustrating is it as a developmental director when you don't know how to communicate with people? What if they want to be texted, even though sometimes we feel like that's too informal or unprofessional? What if they want to be texted because they're a business owner and they don't want to jump on a 30-minute phone call? So by getting their communication preferences and then honoring them, you can more intentionally utilize the finite time that you have and be mindful and respectful of their time as well. And we're going to capture those preferences for you at your event.

Sarah: That's amazing. And the other thing is that the whole reason we communicate with people is to garner response. Right. So if you're communicating with me, you know, like I'm a very busy person. I'm running my company. I have a team of 10 people. We have many clients who need a lot of things. And so like it's easier for me if I just get a text. And because I am routinely way behind on my email because I get so much email in any day. Right. So I'm sure you're in the same boat. I'm sure so many of us are in that same boat. And yet I get these really long emails from organizations I love and support. And I'm like, “I don't have time for this.” And so I'll read the first few sentences and then I'm done. You know, but if they just sent me a text, I'd be like, “oh, great. Thank you for the information.” Or even if it was like a text with a link. But I love this idea of the QR code and getting like the kind of seasoned donors to like love up on the new folks, because one of the challenges I think so many nonprofits face is how do you follow up effectively with those first time folks? But why wait till you follow up? You guys did it in the room like and then that's like massive release of dopamine in the room. Right. So everybody's feeling good, you know. So like I love that you just did this two minute or two question survey that unleashed all this amazing energy. Like I'm sitting here just I'm like, “oh my God, that would have been amazing.” I'm like, I'm even excited just hearing about the idea. I can only imagine what it felt like to be in that room where so much donor love was happening. And I love the fact that you asked about communications because that's information that every development director needs and every communication director needs. And so often it's hard to get that information. You know, people like, “oh, yeah, I need your email list.” It's like, “right. I need your email.”

Joey: We so often treat business like a transaction and we wonder why our relationships aren't as deep and and meaningful as they could be. And so this is a way to transform your relationships. This is a way it's not just with audiovisual and at your event, you know, we do this stuff because we have to in our space. We have to be thinking differently about how we're engaging people, because for us, transactional audio video is very one dimensional. We want this to be 12 dimensional because we want our clients to look at us a little NLP here for you and say, “these are the individuals who really understand me, who really understand our community, who really understand how to deepen our relationships and make our events go further for us.” If we were just doing the bare minimum, we wouldn't have that response. And so I think we have to put that same type of intention into our relationships. And you can do that by when you bring how many times do you have five hundred of your biggest fans and supporters in a space where you can capture that information that helps you deepen your relationships and widen the amount of supporters and and widen the impact that you have.

Sarah: Yeah, I love this. We could talk all day. Yeah, and I think the thing that I want to just reinforce that you just said is it's about relationships. Donors come to your organization, volunteers come to your organization, supporters come to your organization because they care about the people who need your help. Right. So the whole idea that fundraising is a transaction just is killing our fundraising and it's turning people off. I don't want to be treated like an ATM machine. Nobody does. Right. So we need to think about that. So I really love the ideas you shared with us and the thinking that I like my brain is just spinning now, like, “oh, this, this, this, this, this.” Right. So maybe we'll have to have you back on. So I just want to thank you for joining us today and sharing your time and your talent and your innovative ideas and expertise. It's been so fun to talk to you. And hopefully our folks will get a lot out of this episode.

Joey: Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate you. And Chris backstage in the green room. Thanks, brother. Appreciate you as well.

Sarah: Yeah. Thanks again for joining us, Joey.

Joey: Thank you. Thank you all for doing incredible work.

Sarah: Yeah. Bye Mike.

Thanks for tuning in. I'll be back in two weeks with another episode got topics you want me to cover? Organizations you want me to showcase? Let me know. Also, I'm here to help you revolutionize philanthropy at your nonprofit. If you want to talk about what that looks like, drop me an email.

I’ve been to an event orchestrated by Joey and his team, and it was FANTASTIC!

Not only does he provide a great experience, but nonprofits that work with Utopia Experience see a 60% increase in their event’s fundraising!

To learn more about Joey, his team, and what they can do for you, visit:

You can watch the full episode on YouTube or listen to Spotify.


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